Date of Award

Spring 4-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

First Advisor

Jesse Matz

Abstract

A Vision is W.B. Yeats's book of symbolic lunar astrology. Containing explanations for symbols that appear throughout his poetic work, the text's dominant symbol–the famous spiraling gyre–attempts to connect an inhuman history with the human soul. This text imagines itself as existing at a pivotal spiritual and historical turning point within this astrology. Belief in the text's rather absurd claim to authority becomes the central device A Vision uses to interface with an audience. Despite its absurdities, in the way it conceptualizes belief, A Vision certainly does mark a historical turning point. The text's amalgamation of Romantic and esoteric influences refer to magic as means with which to transform the world. These influences extend into the twentieth-century; modern symbolists and occultists like Austin Osman Spare demonstrate that magic, when rendered in modern contexts, becomes an ideology that imagines radical, transformative belief as a path to powerful social and political engagement for the bourgeois subject. Yet Yeats's blending of biography with narrative, poetry, and occult theory in A Vision perhaps also demonstrates a future trend for magical fictionality. Ultimately, A Vision becomes a vessel for antiquated discourses that contradict their 1930s moment, but also a possibility for understanding the subject's ability to transform socio-political worlds.

Comments

A Vision is W.B. Yeats's book of symbolic lunar astrology. Containing explanations for symbols that appear throughout his poetic work, the text's dominant symbol–the famous spiraling gyre–attempts to connect an inhuman history with the human soul. This text imagines itself as existing at a pivotal spiritual and historical turning point within this astrology. Belief in the text's rather absurd claim to authority becomes the central device A Vision uses to interface with an audience. Despite its absurdities, in the way it conceptualizes belief, A Vision certainly does mark a historical turning point. The text's amalgamation of Romantic and esoteric influences refer to magic as means with which to transform the world. These influences extend into the twentieth-century; modern symbolists and occultists like Austin Osman Spare demonstrate that magic, when rendered in modern contexts, becomes an ideology that imagines radical, transformative belief as a path to powerful social and political engagement for the bourgeois subject. Yet Yeats's blending of biography with narrative, poetry, and occult theory in A Vision perhaps also demonstrates a future trend for magical fictionality. Ultimately, A Vision becomes a vessel for antiquated discourses that contradict their 1930s moment, but also a possibility for understanding the subject's ability to transform socio-political worlds.

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